Richard Spencer: All set for a super summer of events in the Harrogate district

Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey

In his monthly column Richard Spencer, chief executive officer at Visit Harrogate, reflects on another month of promoting the district to the world and looks ahead to a summer packed full of events.

Our district has been capturing the headlines thanks to a busy quarter from our PR team, Cause UK.

One of Visit Harrogate’s regular activities is our Visitor Attractions meeting. We heard about the new sculptures for the spring opening of the Himalayan Gardens and Sculpture Park and a media campaign was launched. It resulted in stories on ITV Calendar and Tyne Tees, features in Yorkshire Living and Yorkshire Life magazine, and national coverage in the Sunday Express magazine and Sunday Telegraph, with video from the Yorkshire Post for social media. The gardens reported an increase in footfall on the back of all the national coverage. The district’s ‘hidden gem’ is no longer a secret!

Our next Visitor Attractions meeting this week means we’re looking forward to spreading more good news stories.

A chat with the new Mayor of Harrogate, Stuart Martin, led to another media story on Ripon’s epic community spirit. The city is knitting mini jerseys as bunting for the UCI World Road Championships in September. The story attracted BBC Look North, Stray FM and local newspaper coverage, another great way to shout about the warm welcome our district is planning to ‘Welcome the World’.

Recent press trips also resulted in glowing reviews of iconic Harrogate attractions in The Sun, Time Out and Period Living magazine. We’re always thankful to all visitor attractions, restaurants and hotels that support journalists across our district. The dozen international journalists that explored Nidderdale, Ripon, Masham and Harrogate for the Explore GB conference, hosted by Visit Britain, fed back how much they enjoyed their tours, with one from Italy saying the Bettys afternoon tea experience alone made the entire trip worthwhile.

The Visit Harrogate team worked hard to support the travel exhibition, with over 50 meetings with international buyers. We created a voucher booklet, an information point and worked with Welcome to Yorkshire to host a Yorkshire Marketplace. Visit Britain reported the event was a huge success, and they received ‘nothing but positive feedback’.

Ripon has been a strong focus for us of late. We launched a two-year campaign with Ripon City Council with a new micro-site for Visit Ripon, destination print guides, and engagement with local businesses in the visitor economy. We’ll be managing the collective destination marketing activity for key attractions such as Newby Hall, Fountains Abbey, Ripon Cathedral, Museums and Racecourse and Lightwater Valley in the year ahead. These headline tourism attractions host around 1.4m visitors to the borough every year. Visual decision making and rich media content is increasingly important in today’s destination marketing mix, so as well as traditional print, we’ll use video content and drone footage for our online channels including social media.

We’ve also worked with the Harrogate BID team and Harrogate Review for its refreshed look and content, now featuring more tourism content as well as profiling local businesses, and soon we’ll be working up Christmas campaigns!

First though, it’s a busy week of events, not least with the annual crime wave heading to the Old Swan Hotel as Harrogate hosts the epic Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. I’ve heard that Harrogate station will be temporary re-branded ‘Harry-gate’ by the publisher of Jo Nesbo, to honour the launch of his knew Harry Hole novel, Knife, at the festival. Criminally good!

Make sure you visit our top Google ranking website - visitharrogate.co.uk - to check out events this summer.